Time, old injuries and bad habits take their toll as you grow older. Many people assume that arthritis is only associated with old age and, although other forms of the condition that are just as debilitating affect children and young adults, osteoarthritis is the one that commonly affects middle-aged and older people.
Ostearthritis occurs when the cartilage covering the bony surfaces of joints breaks down or when spurs (osteophytes) develop on the edges of the end of the bone. Osteoarthritis affects only joints and not internal organs. Most affected are the weight-bearing joints such as the spine, hips, knees and feet. People with osteoarthritis usually have joint pain and limited movement.
Osteoarthritis can rob you of mobility and flexibility and, with the normal effects of ageing, can add up to a reduced quality of life.
Take charge and learn as much as you possibly can about your condition and start adapting your lifestyle.
If you’re thinking that nothing will make you move those painful, stiff joints, consider this: gentle, regular exercise will result in less pain due to more flexibility, you’ll have greater strength and endurance, a better mood and outlook, you’ll get a better night’s sleep, maintain weight and, as a bonus, have a healthier heart.
Research has shown that one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis is exercise. You can include stretching and strengthening movements without risk of harm and, in fact, the older you are, the more you need to exercise and remain active.
Appropriate exercise can depend on a number of factors to do with your joints, such as which ones are affected, their stability and whether you have had joint replacement surgery. One of the best types of exercise is tai chi, which is an ancient Chinese form of exercise.
Discuss an appropriate exercise programme with your doctor and/or physiotherapist to ensure you develop a programme that is tailored to your needs, lifestyle and health.
Above all, be realistic: you may not be able to climb mountains or begin training for the Olympics, but taking a relaxing walk in the park might be just what you need.
Last Reviewed: 30 August 2009